fbpx

Amidst Manipur ethnic violence, mob rapes and murders two young girls, families seek justice

The day before their attack, the communal dispute between the Meitei and Kuki clans broke out and the Manipur region fell into dire circumstances. We heard word of the ethnic riots spreading rapidly. My concern for their safety escalated quickly and I decided I would talk to Sara the next day at 3:00 p.m. Little did I know, it would be the last day of her life, and the last time we ever spoke.

  • 9 months ago
  • August 21, 2023
7 min read
As inter-clan conflict and ethnic violence erupts in Manipur, India, the area becomes a burning hellhole. As inter-clan conflict and ethnic violence erupts in Manipur, India, the area becomes a burning hellhole. | Photo courtesy of an anonymous source with permission
Interview Subject
Orato World Media has granted anonymity to the interview subject for protection, and has changed the names of the victims, as the conflict continues in Manipur. Speaking out could put their remaining family members’ lives in jeopardy. The journalist has thoroughly vetted and researched the validity of the claims, including the review of documents and reports on the incident.
Background Information
Manipur is a remote state in northeast India. According to Aljazeera, “The dispute stems from animosity between Manipur’s Meitei majority and the Kuki-Zo, one of several tribal groups in the state that make up about 16 percent of its population.” The predominantly Hindu Meitei people live largely in the capital and the prosperous surrounding valleys. The Kuki-Zo are predominately Christian and inhabit settlements in the hills. An updated report in Reuters on August 5, 2023 count the dead at over 180. Outlook India reported that the violence first erupted on May 3, 2023 “after tribal groups staged a rally in the state’s Charachandpur district…” The report points to documented public rapes of women, lynching of men, and the murdering of children.

MANIPUR, India ꟷ On May 4, 2023, at about 5:00 p.m., a group estimated at over 100 members of the Meitei community stormed into the room shared by a young woman from my family and her companion at their place of employment in Konung Mamang. Reports conclude, a mob held the girls, who were in their early 20s, captive in one room and locked their co-worker in another. The mob gang-raped and tormented these young girls simply for being Kukis before brutally murdering them. They endured the terrifying ordeal for an hour and a half.

When they finished, the mob took their bodies from the scene of the crime and dumped them in a faraway location. Their bodies have yet to be delivered to the family by the state administration and I wonder why, humbly imploring the central government to assist in their burial remains.

I seek justice for young Sara and her childhood friend Natasha, whose family lived next door to us. I remember them playing together in our neighborhood as girls, and then moving to Imphal to start their careers together.

Read more stories out of India from Orato World Media.

Little did I know it was the last time I would ever talk to her

When the girls moved to Imphal, Natasha took a job as a saleswoman at a mall and Sara opened a beauty parlor. Then, about a month ago, they both took jobs as temporary caretakers at a carwash to increase their income. The owner provided them with shared accommodations. Just 44 miles south of our village of Saikul, they began their jobs in the East District of Imphal.

The day before their attack, the communal dispute between the Meitei and Kuki clans broke out and the Manipur region fell into dire circumstances. We heard word of the ethnic riots spreading rapidly. My concern for their safety escalated quickly and I decided I would talk to Sara the next day at 3:00 p.m. Little did I know, it would be the last day of her life, and the last time we ever spoke.

On the phone, Sara seemed nervous and perplexed. She said the owner guaranteed her safety and she took his assurances at face value. Because she trusted him, she paid with her life. The day after the attack, Sara’s father’s phone buzzed, and he came to us with the most terrible news of our entire lives. A friend of Sara and Natasha who also lived in Imphal revealed the horror of their passing.

She explained that the local news channel had been televising a story about two girls who worked at the car wash, who were gang-raped and murdered. Sara’s father’s voice cracked.

Sara’s mother screamed when her picture flashed across the screen

The atmosphere in the home quickly turned gloomy. Silence filled the air. Sara’s father began to cry, and we followed suit, then an image of Sara appeared on television and her mother screamed. The trauma left us feeling completely hopeless.

When I tried calling Sara’s telephone, it became clear the phone was turned off. I instantly rang Natasha’s number. A woman answered and told me Natasha had left her phone behind. She hung up and the phone went into silent mode.

When the news of the girls’ demise became clear, we sat in shock. No one spoke or knew what to do, as we became consumed with the same horrible nervousness. Her father summoned the confidence to call the owner of the car wash who denied knowing them. Before he finished talking, the man hung up. He was lying and we knew it.

We had so many unanswered questions. Who took the girls off the property? How did the mob force their way inside? Why didn’t he alert the authorities? Why did he wait for us to call him? We heard rumors that this man worked closely with the people in the mob and witnessed the incident.

The television reports confirmed that authorities found two female corpses in an isolated area of Konung Mamang. They transported the remains to a hospital affiliated with the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences for an autopsy. We gathered all the information we could from multiple sources. Due to the ongoing fighting, we found ourselves unable to enter Meitei territory or get to the hospital.

With the suspension of mobile networks and internet access, it took until May 13 to send photos of the girls over WhatsApp to identify their bodies. Based on the pictures we sent, the physicians verified their identities and 90 days later, we still wait for their remains so we can perform final rites. The government ignores our pleas.

The FIR confirms the crimes: kidnapping, rape, and murder

On May 16, Natasha’s mother filed a formal complaint with the Saikul Police Station bearing the names of Sara and Natasha. In the complaint she stated between 100 and 200 criminals from the Meitei Youth Organization, Meitei Leepun, Kangleipak Kanba Lup, Arambai Tenggol, and World Meitei Council perpetrated the riots and the crime. She also mentioned the Schedule Tribe Demand Committee.

The Saikul Police in the Kangpokpi District confirmed our worst nightmare in their FIR (First Information Report). Under the Indian Penal Code, they listed the crimes of “voluntarily causing grievous hurt using a dangerous weapon; assault or criminal force with intent to outrage her modesty; kidnapping or abducting for murder; wrongful concealing; rape; and murder.”

The people of Manipur demand justice for the lynching, rape, and murder of citizens at protests. | Photo courtesy of Facebook with permission from the subject 

The report also pointed to “racial animosity” as the cause of the delay in recording information. Since the filing of the FIR, we sit in wait, watching as no one investigates the tragedies that took these young girls’ lives. The riots continued and on June 12, the mob set fire to homes in the hamlet of Khopibung. As the flames pressed in, we managed to escape and seek refuge with family in the highlands of Khamenlok. Our dwelling burned, and we now call this new place home. 

They continue burning and killing

Sara came from the Kuki community where her father worked as a farmer. Out of four sisters, Sara was the third. I often think of her kind and upbeat nature. In 2020, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, finishing her course in beauty before starting her own business. She needed some extra cash for her beauty salon when she took the job at the car wash.

I think of Natasha too. A sympathetic young woman, she never said no to helping someone in need. She left her job as a saleswoman at the Bazar India Shopping Mall to go to work with Sara at the car wash. “What crime did these innocent young girls commit,” my mind pleads. “Will the murderers ever be found guilty?” 

My heart breaks for Sara, Natasha, and the many other women raped and killed. Our people need help. Since the communal violence began in Manipur, over 180 people have died, and more than 220 churches and 17 Hindu temples have burned. Our home proved one among many as the rioters destroyed our dwellings. Now about 60,000 of us are homeless. My heart pleads, “When will this unrest end?” 

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

#GlobalCooperationNow

Pledge to be a #ConsciousCitizen today and demand #GlobalCooperationNow! by signing this petition. Sign Our Petition.

HERE'S WHAT'S NEW:

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE STORY: PAYOUT: $200 OR MORE

NATIONAL FEATURE STORY: PAYOUT: $100-150 OR MORE
REGIONAL FEATURE STORY: PAYOUT: $50-100 OR MORE
SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT STORY: PAYOUT: $25-50
Photo Gallery (10 Photos) PAYOUT: $25
Photo Gallery (20 Photos) PAYOUT: $50

TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY
JOIN US

Related